Ducking Da Vinci’s Syndrome Six Tips to Help You Finish Your Tasks and Projects

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes the longest to finish.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, British fantasist and language professor.

With genius comes flaws; it almost seems a requirement. Thomas Edison avoided baths; Einstein may have been autistic; Nobel Prize-winning economist John Nash was schizophrenic; Frank Lloyd Wright abandoned his family; and Stephen Hawking, RIP, was ravaged by Motor Neuron Disease (a.k.a. ALS).

Leonardo da Vinci, brilliant inventor and painter of the Mona Lisa, had a less debilitating flaw, but one so common we’ve blessed it with his name: Da Vinci Syndrome. With his constantly active mind, Da Vinci took great joy in beginning projects… but lost interest and abandoned most before he finished them. Several of his most famous sketches include a design for a glider very similar to the Wright Brothers airplane that flew at Kittyhawk, as well as a man in a winged suit that might have worked like modern skydiving wingsuits. In combination with a da Vinci’s detailed anatomic drawing of a bat’s wing, the latter served as the inspiration for the famous comic superhero, Batman.

Da Vinci never actually finished these projects. Sound familiar? We often nab great ideas as they pass through our brains; a few grow until they’re mature enough to develop further, whereupon we focus our energies on them… until we lose interest. How many unfinished projects do you have hidden away? Some no doubt deserve abandonment; but some could be breakthroughs. Good example: the movie version of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic story “The Snow Queen” languished for eighty years in development hell before the release of 2013’s Frozen, which earned $1.2 billion worldwide.

You might have a billion-dollar idea hiding in your notebooks, or one may be growing in your idea garden waiting for harvest. But it will only matter if you can bring it to full fruition. Try these six tips to help you maximize your productivity by bringing projects to profitable completion.

  1. Abandon perfectionism. We all want our products to be above reproach, but reality, resources, and time constraints don’t allow us to spend as much time on anything as we’d like. Never put getting it right so far above getting it out that you never finish your project or task.

  2. Don’t depend on motivation. Self-discipline is your friend when it comes to project completion. Motivation is fine, but it’s short-lived. We’re awash in motivation, with all the recordings, videos, books, blogs, and posters everywhere. But after the flash of motivation comes the long slog to the finish line, which is where you really shine. It doesn’t matter how well you start if you never finish.

  3. Don’t set the bar too high. While your reach should exceed your grasp in all things, be realistic in your goals. You’re unlikely to write a 100-page report in a week without wrecking yourself. Before making promises, carefully review your resources, especially time, and decide what you can do with the proper help.

  4. Make a habit of finishing. If you fail to finish a project, all you end up with is junk cluttering your mental and physical workspaces. If you know there’s a slog ahead, break the task down into small, doable pieces… and Just Do It. There’s little more that needs saying. You can make a habit of finishing if you really want to.

  5. Set painful deadlines. Many marketers have a habit of offering projects that don’t yet exist to their prospects by a specific date, often with a nice discount if they buy early. This encourages the marketer to buckle down and get the work done—because if they can’t deliver, they’ll lose a lot of money they’ve already collected. Nothing breaks a creative block like a financial deadline.

  6. Budget properly. Review your resources and determine the least amount of work you must do daily to hit your headline—and exceed it. Many novelists write the parts of their books they need to get out in the open first, not necessarily in order, then go back and connect them. According to rumor, J.K. Rowling wrote the last few lines of her Harry Potter series first.

Following Through

Follow-up and follow-through finishes projects. Realize, as you get started, that your initial motivation and momentum won’t last… but don’t let that get you down. You have the willpower and self-discipline to power through, complete your mission, and advance a level in your quest for maximum productivity. Never quit, and you’ll do fine.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored eight books, including her newest work, FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Jan. 2018). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email [email protected], or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland